Visions of Mary

Bob Dylan has a wonderful, and hypnotic song entitled Visions of Johanna which starts with these lyrics:

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks/ when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet.

Change the word “night” to “Church” and “quiet” to “rational”, and sing along. It looks like the Catholic Church is up to their old tricks again. After over 300 years, they finally have decided that visions allegedly experienced by a 17 year old girl in the French Alps were authentic visions of the Virgin Mary.

Speaking at Mass in Laus in remarks broadcast nationally on France-2 television, Monsignor Jean-Michel di Falco Leandri said he recognized the “supernatural origin” of the apparitions to 17-year-old shepherd girl Benoite Rencurel starting in 1664 and running through 1718.

There’s no real explanation for why it took them so long, or why it was propitious to make the decision now, however some things just seem to be so obvious. For instance:

The recognition Sunday makes Laus an official pilgrimage site for the church — on a par with Lourdes, a site where Roman Catholic tradition holds that the Virgin Mary appeared before 14-year-old girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

The “official pilgrimage site for the church”. Now where have I heard that phrase before? Let’s see. The official ball of the NFL. The official deodorant of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The official sports drink, the official t-shirt, the official toilet paper…ad infinitum, ad nauseum. It’s all a big come on, designed to part the faithful from the legal tender in their wallets.

The sanctuary, which was founded by Rencurel, today welcomes some 120,000 pilgrims a year — at times providing healing oils based on a method that the Virgin Mary was said to pass on to the shepherd girl, the officials said.

That clinches it. 120,000 people per year pass through this holy site. Can you imagine how much “holy oil” they can sell to them? And how much the price of the oil just increased as a result of the official imprimatur of the Catholic Church? Sounds like a gold mine to me. Now they’ll be able to compete better for those pilgrim’s dollars that have all been going to Lourdes up to this point.

Religion has always been one of the biggest money making operations in the history of mankind, so while I may sound somewhat jaded and cynical, I’m not surprised. However, I am surprised that no one questions how the Church can know, with such certainty today, that the visions this young woman says she experienced were supernatural, but couldn’t figure that out at the time? What new information or evidence of the divine nature of the visions did they recently come upon?

One blogger has had the temerity to suggest that perhaps young Benoite had partaken of certain hallucinogens indigenous to the French Alps at the time. Given the fact that the overwhelming evidence we have for the source of visions and voices seems to point to brain chemistry alterations, induced by either mental illness or self medication, I would tend to give that blogger’s speculation far more credence than that of the Church’s supernatural explanation, when the Church would seem to gain so much as a result. Of course, the Church uses typical religion-speak when rationalizing it’s decision.

…the shepherdess had been permitted to “discern the drama of sin which injures man and disfigures humanity,” as well as the mercy of God that accompanied sin.

“The greatness of Benoite lies not in her intellectual capacities, her diplomas or her fortune, or the style of her social circle, but the fact that she agreed to be chosen by the Lord to reveal the tenderness of God through Mary,” the archbishop said.

“She invites everyone in a very personal way to conversion, which means to bring order and truth back into their lives, giving first place to God’s love, and to take the path of humility and live truly in baptism,” he said.

I’d be grateful if someone could tell me what the hell that means.

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6 thoughts on “Visions of Mary

  1. Given the fact that the overwhelming evidence we have for the source of visions and voices seems to point to brain chemistry alterations, induced by either mental illness or self medication …

    There’s another rationale for seeing visions and hearing voices that doesn’t involve mental illness or self-medication. It’s called “lying.” Maybe poor Benoite was just hungry for attention.

  2. Ah! There’s nothing like another holy scam to kick one’s cynicism up another notch or two.

    It’s about time to trade in my Beginner’s Skept-O-Meter for a more advanced model. I think I’ll skip right over the Intermediate level and go for at least the Solid Gold (no mere gold-plating for me!) model. I’ll bet Exterminator already has the Solid Platinum one. 🙂

  3. The Roman Catholic Church needs such events to occur every few generations to help authenticate its teachings and processes. The church is telling its members that such visions can happen to average members who simply trust their faith and remain pliable. In other words, turn off the mind, simply trust what we tell you and you may just have special spiritual experience. What is not logical or rational will be accepted by many because they want to believe it as much as the person who bets upon the unrealistic longshot wants to believe their horse has a realistic chance of winning.

  4. Call me cynical, but I wonder if the Catholic church’s declaring these hallucinations “official” means that Rome will in some way share in the profits made at the site.

    You wondered why it took them so long to make the decision, SI, and this might partially explain it. It could be that the church noticed that this site was already attracting substantial pilgrimage traffic, and decided to lend its imprimatur in order to get a cut of the money it’s taking in from alms and holy oil. It’s almost like a restaurant chain setting up a new franchise.

  5. Wow, I would love to read the official report of this “panel of experts,” to see their evidence and methodology for myself. Not holding my breath for that though.

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